Could H&M's new peer to peer fashion styling site Itsapark take on Instagram?
H&M Group has (somewhat quietly) launched a new peer-to-peer styling platform and Instagram account where shoppers can get honest answers to all their fashion questions from like-minded "creators", who are free to recommend product from H&M brands but also from any of its rivals too.
The Itsapark platform is currently in Beta phase and has videos of "assigned creators" offering advice on customers' styling and shopping questions, such as finding the perfect which t-shirt and looking stylish when cycling.
These creators are rewarded by H&M for providing answers to the questions however they are not obliged to reference H&M Group products in their answers.
There are also Instagram-style posts tackling particular themes and questions, along with "chat"-style Q&As for users to talk to each other.
In the "Find" section of the site, recommendations are made about where customers can buy certain styles (with direct links to the relevant e-commerce sites) and while H&M Group brands such as H&M, Monki, & Other Stories, Weekday and COS feature, so do plenty of the group's rivals from J Crew to Topshop.
Anyone can register to access the site and it's not yet known when the fully fledged service, which is based in Berlin, will launch. In a statement H&M Group said: "Itsapark sees an opportunity to make fashion easier by creating a space where people can get honest answers to all their fashion questions. Users ask their questions directly to the platform and Itsapark connects them with the right person to help answer their question."
"This is an early version of Itsapark, which is available to try out and explore. Itsapark will switch from its beta version to being fully open, as soon as they feel the platform is ready and can offer users the full experience."
"H&M Group is constantly exploring new ways of helping people discover and get inspired by fashion and design. Itsapark is the group’s latest project and aims to offer honest and helpful style advice within its digital community."
Even though it's in the early stages the project has every potential to take on Instagram for fashion-savvy Millennials looking for styling inspiration and advice. Rewarding influencers (not that H&M uses that word) for offering advice and good content rather than peddling their products is brave and inspired.
This approach will draw a wider audience to the site and, of course where H&M Group products do feature, they should and will sell well. It's also a pretty immersive (almost addictive) experience even at Beta phase. The pure fashion focus and the impartiality (if it can retain that) make it a potential serious Instagram rival.